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How to Perform a Traditional Step Hindu Pooja

What is Pooja?

Hindus do Poojas daily at home and on special occasions like festivals. Pooja is basically a ceremony or ritual. During the ritual, people make offerings to a deity to invoke the deity’s blessings. People may also recite sacred hymns or verses like Stotras or Mantras, which can help them connect to the divine.

Pooja is a way to express devotion to a deity. By doing Pooja, we surrender ourselves at the altar as a part of worship.
It is also a way to honor the creator through chants, songs, meditation, and other rituals. It helps to create a spiritual connection with God.
During the Hindu Pooja, the devotee invites and welcomes God as a guest into their home and heart. After serving them with devotion, the devotee sends them back while requesting their blessings all along the way.

Traditional Step Hindu Pooja

The Traditional Steps of Pooja

There are 16 traditional steps for a Pooja. These constitute the Hindu Pooja Vidhi. The traditional Pooja, which is a Vedic ritual, is Shodashopachara Pooja. ‘Shodasha’ in Sanskrit means ‘16’, and ‘upachara’ means ‘a gift made in devotion’. The offerings and actions that are part of the Pooja contain the devotee’s faith and spiritual energy. This makes it possible for the devotee to connect and communicate with God.

The 16 traditional steps of the Pooja (Hindu Pooja Vidhi) are:

Dipajvalana (lighting a lamp)
Guruvandana (gratitude to the Guru)
Ganesha Vandana (Praying to Lord Ganesha to remove obstacles)
Sankalpa (affirming intention or the purpose of the Pooja)
Atma Pooja (Adoration of the divinity in the self)
Mantapadhyana (Meditation on the shrine’s miniature)
Ghanatanada (Ringing the bell)
Asanamantra (Mantra for purifying the deity’s seat)
Mantra Parayana (Chanting the Mantras of the Ishta Devata)
Pranayama (A short breathing exercise to focus on the Pooja)
Jala Sudhi (Formal purification of the water in the kalasa/pot to use in the Pooja)
Vasthu Sudhi (inviting the gods who represent the 5 elements and sprinkling the Kalasa water over all the Pooja samagri to sanctify them)
Purusasukta (invoking the deity into the idol)
Madhuparkam Offering (to express love and devotion for God, devotees offer many things and perform certain chores before the deity. They include things like offering a seat for the deity, water, flower, betel leaf, cloth, honey, incense, camphor, fruits, etc.)
Naivedyam (offering of fresh food by the devotee to God)
Karpoora Niranjanam (Mangal aarati)

Traditional Hindu Pooja Items

Kamakshi Lamp
Kamakshi Lamp represents Goddess Kamakshi, who is the Goddess of wisdom and prosperity. It is a magnificent brass lamp that has an engraving of the Goddess. It represents wisdom and the ability to overcome troubles, challenges, sadness, and misunderstandings in life. Before the Kamakshi Lamp is lit, devotees arrange flowers and other sacred items around it. The Lamp is a must for the prayer room in Hindu households. The Goddesses, Saraswathi, and Lakshmi, who bestow knowledge and wealth, respectively, supposedly dwell in Goddess Kamakshi’s eyes. One should not place the Kamakshi lamp on the floor. You can place it on a metal plate, a leaf, or a heap of rice. It can bring you many gains. Worship it with turmeric, kumkum, and flowers before you light it.

Kumkum
Kumkum or vermilion has special significance for a Pooja. Its red color represents auspiciousness, joy, zeal, and courage. Kumkum is a sacred substance that can produce abundance, thereby fulfilling the wishes of women, and it also signifies good fortune.

Chandan/Sandalwood Powder
Chandan powder is used in the worship of deities. Devotees put a tilak of Chandan paste on the forehead of an idol. Indian sandalwood has powerful spiritual qualities. Sandalwood powder can supposedly draw the devotee closer to God. It also induces serenity and cleanses the mind. It is commonly used as incense for meditation, prayer, and other spiritual practices in many religions.

Rose water
Roses and Rosewater (Paneer) have been used in religious ceremonies since time immemorial.
Rosewater is an essential component of Abishekam or hydration ceremonies. Rosewater Abishekam is done by pouring rosewater over the idol. This can help invoke divine blessings for prosperity and well-being.
When we apply rosewater on the idol while chanting Mantras, the water also carries the energy, and it gets transferred to the devotees who are present there.

Incense sticks
Burning incense sticks goes back to antiquity. The belief is that burning incense sticks, done along with worship and prayer, can get rid of evil spirits and purify the environment. The fragrance of the burning dhoop sticks creates a feeling of calmness.

Rudraksha Mala/ Tulsi Mala
People keep a Rudraksha Mala and Tulsi Mala to attract good energy into the home. They are kept in the Pooja room.
Thanks to its healing properties, Rudraksha is one of the most valuable beads. Rudraksha protects the body from ailments and negative forces. Rudra is a name for Shiva, while ‘aksha’ means ‘eyes’, denoting Shiva’s eyes. Supposedly, only those who have Shiva’s blessings are privileged to wear it.

Tulsi is associated with Vishnu, Krishna, and Balram. In Ayurveda, it is used to prevent throat problems. Tulsi Mala preserves our spiritual purity and wards off evil spirits. It can bestow peace and good health.
There is a scientific reason for wearing these malas. They help control blood pressure and also boost the digestive system. Tulsi Mala and Rudraksha Mala make the mind calm and stable. They purify our bodies, both externally and internally.

Hand Bell
By ringing the hand bell, the devotee is informing the deity of his/her arrival. The sound of the Hand bell is very auspicious as it is believed to welcome divinity and ward off evil.
Hand Bells attract positive energy and dispel negativity. They have a cleansing effect. The bell is usually made from brass and produces a clear sound when rung.

Aarti Plate
Having an Aarti plate is very essential for a Pooja. Aarti is the ritual of circulating a flame on a plate before the deity. It originated in the Vedic ritual of Homa. The plate may also have incense, flowers, and akshata (rice grains). The Aarti plate can be of bronze, silver, or copper. Aarti represents the 5 elements – Fire (Flame’s heat), Water (Neer), Earth (Flower), Wind (movement), and Space (Samaram). Thus, by offering the Aarti, we offer our entire self and all facets of material creation to God, symbolically. It is often accompanied by the singing of songs that praise the deity. The plate is believed to acquire the power of the deity when we perform this ritual.

Pooja Thamboolam Plate
Hindus offer Thamboolam to their guests before they return to their homes. The belief is that the 3 major Hindu goddesses – Parvathi, Lakshmi, and Saraswathi- reside in the betel leaf. The Goddess is believed to bless the one who gives as well as the one who receives the Thamboolam plate.

The Pooja Thamboolam Plate contains items like betel leaf, betel nut, bangles, Turmeric, Kumkum, Yellow thread, Flowers, Coconut, Bananas, a blouse piece, or a sari. Also, when all these positive energies meet in one place, they tend to amplify and spread throughout the area where the Pooja is taking place. This enhances the positive energies in the surroundings, which is conducive to attracting the presence of the divine and inducing a sense of peace.